fbpx

Don’t Be True to Yourself

Are you being true to yourself? Should you? Better question: What in the world is a true self, anyway? In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius counsels his son:

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

But that’s mostly wrong. It turns out that being fulfilled, just, and true to others does not flow from autonomy or authenticity.

Not too long ago Hollywood realized that parents see children’s movies, too. The Incredibles (2004) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) stand out for addressing, in sophisticated ways, the search for one’s true self. These films show how the reigning concept of the true self results in moral solipsism. But we should also dig a little deeper into the theological roots and philosophical flat-footedness of this idea. For, in the mandate to be true to oneself, our post-Christian public culture misunderstands the sources and nature of “the self.”

Early in The Incredibles, we meet Buddy (Jason Lee), a fanboy of the superhero Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson). “You always, always say be true to yourself,” the boy tells his idol, “but you never say which part of yourself to be true to. Well, I’ve finally figured out who I am. I am your ward . . . Incrediboy!”

Mr. Incredible is dismissive of his hapless helper. (“Go home, Buddy.”) The rejection impels Buddy/Incrediboy toward evildoing on a grand scale.

Director Brad Bird has said the boy’s hurt feelings were more or less an afterthought in the script. But they are deeply persuasive. How natural to resent one’s benefactors and one’s betters. Those with superpowers (the “supers”) have been helping people out of jams, but there’s going to be payback after Mr. Incredible prevents the suicide of a Mr. Sansweet—a bitter man: “You didn’t save my life. You ruined my death.” Lawsuits ensue, and not just Mr. Incredible, but Elastigirl, Frozone, Dynaguy, and the rest are dragged down, forced into hiding.

We next find Mr. Incredible in midlife doldrums, an insurance company middleman prevented from even small acts of heroism and punished when he tries. Incrediboy, in the meantime, has grown up to be the villain Syndrome. He wants to hand out superpowers to all via technology. “When everyone is super,” he chuckles, “no one will be.”

It’s right out of Tocqueville, who warned us:

There is in fact a manly and legitimate passion for equality that incites men to want all to be strong and esteemed. This passion tends to elevate the small to the rank of the great; but one also encounters a depraved taste for equality in the human heart that brings the weak to want to draw the strong to their level and that reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.

A dedication to egalitarianism can cut both ways: uplifting the lower or bringing down the higher. I would argue that this happens not only in society but also within our souls. For egalitarianism would have us treat all our parts as equally deserving of honor, and this leaves us lost in deciding which of our impulses to be true to.

This brilliant children’s movie communicates a nuanced message. It’s pathetic to see the supers prevented from exercising their excellences, from being the best they can be. Yet Syndrome’s villainy is motivated by an attempt to discover and live out his own unique essence. Rather than simply being true to ourselves, we must ask—as the film tells us early on—to which part of ourselves shall we be true? The Incredibles ends with a restoration of the supers’ prerogative to be super—but also an admonition for them to be gentler with those who lack their talents. Perhaps inside our souls, as well, we must let the higher be higher, but lead the lower lovingly.

At a certain point that cliché to which I referred, that we must find and then be true to ourselves, runs headlong into another cliché of our culture: that our identity is something we can and must choose for ourselves. Which is it to be—predetermined identity or freedom? Self-discovery or self-authorship?

Perhaps neither. Both are bad ideas when used, as they often are, to rationalize bad behavior. On the other hand, as is typical of clichés, both contain some truth. They create problems when asserted as extremes and the difference between higher and lower is flattened out.

Often “being true to yourself” is an excuse to be false to others, a cover for irresponsibility. This is obvious once we admit to ourselves how dangerous aspects of us are. Being naïve about this will result in a lot of pain. We need to recognize it to protect ourselves from the dangerous impulses in others, and to be sufficiently careful not to hurt others. When we do damage, it’s a bullshit excuse to say, “Well, that’s the way I am” or “It’s just me being me.”

This is the theme of Fantastic Mr. Fox. If other animals had logos (reason, language), they would have existential crises just as humans do. Mr. Fox (George Clooney) talks, so he has logos. He’s a husband and a father. But he’s still a fox, and he likes stealing chickens. He promised his wife to give that up to become a family man. This pledge to her constitutes a moment in which his higher logos infuses his lower animality.

The star of the movie is an animal, but he’s there to highlight the fact that we ourselves combine animality and higher traits. Mr. Fox is extremely human, but his animality is always still there: In several scenes, the film humorously juxtaposes calm reason and raw animality. The question is how to put these things together well.

The midlife Mr. Fox is drawn away from the concrete goods in his life because he is bored and has started identifying himself and his friends as merely wild animals, whose only end is death. He’s looking for the meaning of his life, and he thinks he’s found it by reasserting his true, animal nature. Of course, he can only do this because he is not merely an animal. Real foxes don’t have midlife crises.

Mr. Fox is fantastic—charming, creative, clever, a leader. But he’s also a bit of a jerk sometimes. He takes unnecessary risks. He doesn’t respect other animals enough. He’s on the narcissistic side, needing to be the best at everything all the time. Yet he isn’t satisfied with being merely a fox. As a rational animal, he is a complex creature, needing to balance and order his many parts and to orient his activities meaningfully—but he looks for meaning in all the wrong places.

He makes two big mistakes that endanger his community. First, against his wife’s judgment and his lawyer’s advice, he decides to distinguish himself by being the fox who lives in a tree instead of a hole. Second, he gives in to his animal desire to steal chickens, breaking his promise to his wife. Instead of being a fox with logos, he wants to be both more and less.

When Mr. Fox’s behavior draws the ire of local farmers, his family and neighborhood are threatened, and Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) talks sense to him. Mrs. Fox succeeds where Mr. Fox fails, at infusing and controlling her animality with her logos:

Mrs. Fox: I’m going to lose my temper now.

Mr. Fox: When?

Mrs. Fox: Right now. [She slaps him.] Twelve fox years ago you made a promise to me, while we were caged inside that fox trap, that if we survived, you would never steal another chicken, turkey, goose, duck, or squab, whatever they are. And I believed you. Why—why did you lie to me?

Mr. Fox: Because I’m a wild animal.

Mrs. Fox: You are also a husband and a father.

Mr. Fox: I’m trying to tell you the truth about myself.

Mrs. Fox: I don’t care about the truth about yourself. This story is too predictable.

Mr. Fox: Predictable, really? What happens in the end?

Mrs. Fox: In the end, we all die—unless you change.

Whereas Mr. Fox thinks his escapades bespeak living more meaningfully and being true to himself, Mrs. Fox unmasks Mr. Fox’s existential crisis and his assertion of identity as self-serving excuses.

So Mr. Fox needs to harness his impulses in a way that respects others and protects the web of social relationships in which, and only in which, he can live meaningfully. We have many impulses that we must respect and service, but also harness and order, not merely give in to.

Clearly “discovering” who we are isn’t the point. Yes, we have to learn to recognize how we’re structured, the pattern of our desires and fears, our abilities and inabilities—what we can and can’t change about ourselves. That’s only the first step. The next is responding. It’s up to us, as persons with reason and freedom, to handle those “facts” about ourselves. That is to say, while being honest about oneself is a crucial first step toward responsibility, being true to oneself—as commonly understood—is nonsense, excusing irresponsibility.

Of course, many aspects of our lives are more or less intractable facts; still, these facts remain open to various plausible interpretations and afford multiple responses. That is, our freedom consists in our ability to respond—in our responsibility. Our identities, our selves, are in part discovered, and in part accrued and created through experiences and deeds. That’s because our freedom comes from reason, logos, which is conversational. It’s what gives us a self.

Our post-Christian culture’s idea of the true self—is this not a distorted remnant of a Christian idea, namely, that the inner man (not the flesh, not the outer man) constitutes our real identity? It builds on Hebrew experience: Elijah encounters the divine not in earthquakes, fires, or other physical phenomena, but in “a still, small voice” directed to him personally (1 Kings 19), and this makes sense, for the Hebrew God is both utterly beyond the world and a conversation partner. He is both a transcendent and a personal God. That’s not to endorse the “buddy Jesus” notion of a personal God, but to say that the Judeo-Christian God is someone with whom one can wrestle, make deals, and negotiate, who speaks to and can be spoken to.

For those who worship the God of Abraham, the intimate presence of this other person in the recesses of consciousness authenticates it. That God sees our interior even better than we do is experienced as making our interior identities more real, lending the flux of consciousness more stability and existential weight. This inner ballast may support an impressive freedom from everything else. The loyalty due this most intimate partner in conversation overrides all worldly demands, and gives true believers an admirable courage in the face of those demands.

Our public culture, which no longer affirms the presence of this intimate conversation partner, nonetheless rests upon its ruins. We retain the sense of an inner, true self that frees us from outer demands. What was a loving loyalty to something beyond oneself becomes an excuse for raw self-assertion, for not managing one’s many parts and prioritizing the higher over the lower. The turn inward now forms an ethical solipsism.

What we discover in our interiority is not a thing, but an ability to attend and respond to what’s given. That’s why people who seek authenticity as the highest good, ironically, end up hollow and fake, or worse—because without an openness to the outside, our insides are empty.

The key is to build a self that is worth being true to, and that requires being true to reality and other persons. So the advice dispensed by old Polonius needs this correction: Let us “reverse the polarity.” It’s a prerequisite for being true to ourselves that we strive, first of all, to be true to what’s beyond and better than our mere selves. Otherwise, we should conclude (with Mrs. Fox): “I don’t care about the truth about yourself.”

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on October 27, 2017 at 11:06:15 am

Unless I missed something, In artical topic of “True to Self” the author fails understand or either has limited life experience. The definition and value is subjective and relative to the core values and principles of an individual.

As one whom has had very successful military and business careers “Be True to Self” has a greater meaning than what the author surmises. My careers and life I have alway strive to live by these by principles: Faith, Honor, Respect and Responsibility, Courage and Commitment, Wisdom and never Forget. Within these principles one core value of these “Be True to Self”. The foundation of these principles were instilled by my parents and family elders only to grow and be strengthened by life experience.

The author implies that “Being True to Self” is fallacious. I disagree! When leading people in the military and business organizations and their environments one must Lead by Example. When the Leader requires people to be willing to sacrifice everything and at times their lives. I believe that Life is the competion and one has to dig deep inside to challenge themselves. Without principles and Belief in Self the prospect of success in pursuit of objectives in life is minimized. This is my experience and observations of the many people and organizations I have been responsible for.

Maybe, those whom have few or no principles and core values are the reasons we find ourselves in the conundrums we see today.

read full comment
Image of Paul
Paul
on October 27, 2017 at 12:37:51 pm

Paul:

I think that Ms Flynn would actually agree with you.

The solution to this apparent difference is to be found in your last sentence:

"Maybe, those whom have few or no principles and core values are the reasons we find ourselves in the conundrums we see today."

AND in:

"Faith, Honor, Respect and Responsibility, Courage and Commitment, Wisdom and never Forget."

Flynn objects (as do I) to those whose "truth" is focused entirely *inward* and are thus unable to recognize their obligations to others. The attributes which you cite, "Faith, Honor, etc..."are precisely the attributes that appear to be missing from so many of the "True to Yourself" types in todays world. In short they are, and Flynn objects to their, selfishn[ness}.

No, Paul, it seems to me that you, especially as a military veteran, are the example of what being "true to oneself" is INTENDED to be - and it is, to my mind, a high honor and one reflective of a healthy self.

take care
gabe

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on October 27, 2017 at 13:03:36 pm

What gabe said. Another way of putting it: The honorable Paul is correct in what he affirms and mistaken in what he denies. Gabe’s distinction acknowledges this and his citation indicates that M. Flynn did as well.

read full comment
Image of Paul Seaton
Paul Seaton
on October 27, 2017 at 13:56:13 pm

1. Yeah, I’m with gabe here.

When Flynn talks about being True to Self, I think she’s referring to something akin to what Mr. Fox experiences: A revelation about one’s self that, if acted upon, would require conflicting with prior commitments. In contrast, Paul does not seem to acknowledge such conflicts; he understands being True to Self to mean honoring a bunch of values—“Faith, Honor, Respect and Responsibility, Courage and Commitment, Wisdom and Never Forget”—that seem tied to honoring prior social commitments.

2. That said, I see value in honoring social commitments—and in breaking away to follow your own drummer.

Consider: Jesus of Nazareth wanders by your fishing boat and says, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

You say, “But my father just died; as his son, and a devout Jew, it’s my duty to go attend to his funeral.” And Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury the dead.”

And he goes on: “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say unto you, do not seek recompense. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other one. You have heard it said to subject an adulteress to death by stoning. But I say unto you, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

You feel that this man speaks with raw force and authority, and that your heart has been changed. You have an urge to follow him.

Yet you embrace the values of Faith, Honor, Respect and Responsibility, Courage and Commitment, Wisdom and Never Forget. Your faith is Orthodox Judaism, yet this man directs you to ignore the dictates of your faith. Indeed, if he keeps on this path, you could imagine that he’d come into conflict with the Sanhedrin, the authoritative council of Jewish sages—and obviously a faithful Orthodox Jew would need to obey the Sanhedrin.

The Ten Commandments tells you to honor your father, and you are a man of honor, respect, responsibility, and never forget. How could you possibly run away from your duties to your father and your faith by going to follow this Jesus guy?

Etc.

Yet, for better or worse, some people did follow. Just not people like the commenters here.

3. Don’t like that hypothetical? How about the Catholic professor of moral theology who, 500 years ago, concluded that Catholicism had become corrupted? The loyal colonial Englishman who concludes that the Colonies should break away from the mother country? The slave ship captain who comes to regard slavery as wrong, or the solider who comes to regard violence as wrong? The immigrants who turned their backs on their families and homelands to come to the New World?

It’s easy to identify the harms that arise from people who walk away from their prior commitments. But growth generally entails leaving something behind. At some point every healthy adult must pull away from his or her parents and establish a separate identity. You can call that disloyalty. You can call it growing up.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on October 27, 2017 at 14:31:50 pm

Gabe quoted the article as follows: “Maybe, those whom have few or no principles and core values are the reasons we find ourselves in the conundrums we see today.”

The issue is the Source of these principles, as nobodyreally alludes to in the reference to the 10 Commandments. Appeal to "core values" etc...., and so on, is only as good as the invincibility of the "sacred" reality that authorizes them. Philip Rieff once said that "whenever I hear the word 'value', I reach for my wallet." This is as good a statement as any of the ultimate futility of trying to anchor a society on "values" or "principles," when the denial of any transcendent referent for this things is the very definition of who we are as moderns. To wit, I actually found the author's basis points compelling.

read full comment
Image of Aaron
Aaron
on October 27, 2017 at 16:05:08 pm

I think be true to yourself means

“50. Whatever moral rules you have deliberately proposed to yourself, abide by them as they were laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety by violating any of them. Don’t regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours.”
-Enchiridion by Epictetus

“I mean by individualism the moral doctrine which, relying on no dogma, no tradition, no external determination, appeals only to the individual conscience."
-Mini-Manual of Individualism by Han Ryner

read full comment
Image of Aurelius
Aurelius
on October 27, 2017 at 16:06:51 pm

Nobody:

Very good, I AM with you here.

A question, though.
In #3, the hypotheticals: Can it not be said that all of the actions taken, with the notable exception of the emigrant, are, or could be consistent with one's *core values*?
Luther, for instance - did Luther abandon his deeply held beliefs regarding faith / religion, etc - or was he simply asserting that the Church, itself, had failed to honor it's own teachings / doctrines and thus it was proper for Luther to abandon that now corrupt institution. I think (other than hoping for a good bowel movement - you know the story?) Luther did not issue his theses for any personal or selfish gain.
The same may be said for the colonists and even the slave captain.

emigrants, on the other hand, may be a little different; in my own family's case, it was a mixture of both self advancement and care, via monetary remittances back "home", for those relatives remaining in the mother country.

And you are RIGHT - it ain't disloyalty, in many instances it is growing up. In so doing, one may be reformulating one's core values. Growing up is the antithesis of stasis.

Aaron below is also correct: without some acknowledgment of a transcendent ethos / code / being, what, if any, are values?

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on October 27, 2017 at 16:38:16 pm

According to R.W. Emerson, "be true to yourself" means

"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."
-Self-Reliance (Essays)

Our self is the part of us we identify with over time that remains constant. It is our personality--specifically our moral precepts or conscience--the part of us that demands we not act like a hypocrite.
The only time we tell someone "you are not yourself" is when we think they are being a hypocrite (ignoring the rights of others that they reserve to themselves). We do not say to someone "you are not yourself" because their taste in music changes, they suddenly would rather watch football instead of reality tv, they get a new job, or they divorce their partner.

read full comment
Image of Life began in Walden's Pond
Life began in Walden's Pond
on October 27, 2017 at 16:47:09 pm

For me, the issue is commitment vs. growth/change. I see them in tension. So I regard it as simple-minded to emphasize the virtue of one without acknowledging the virtue of the other, and acknowledging that these two virtues conflict.

Thus, we get the great ironies of people offering Christian sermons about the importance of sticking to doctrine, or patriotic speeches about the importance of loyalty to the US—yet if people had really conformed to doctrine and been loyal to nation, there never would have been a Christian faith (and, alter, a Protestant faith) or a United States. It is only because people were willing to break from the prevailing orders of their day that we are able to enjoy the prevailing order of OUR day—and lecture people about the need to conform to it.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on October 27, 2017 at 16:56:17 pm

Our self is the part of us we have an identity crisis over.

We don't have an identity crisis when we taste in clothes, or religious belief, or occupation changes. Our self has not changed.
We have an identity crisis when our moral precepts change. It is when we decide something is suddenly morally required, or something is suddenly morally forbidden, that we wonder if we are being our self (or still being our self).
Now this moral change may cause us to want to pursue different hobbies, careers, or mates--but it is not this new pursuit that has caused the identity crisis, it is the new morality (that caused the new pursuit) that causes the identity crisis.
Because we can't resolve the identity crisis until we've come to terms with the new moral code--even if we've come to terms with our new hobbies, careers, etc. It is only once we fully understand our new moral code, and what it entails, and agree that it is our new moral code (stop wondering if it really is our new moral code) that the identity crisis is over.
Once we are confident in our moral code, we are our self that we can be true to. Even if we can't decide between two jobs, so long as we aren't indecisive because of a moral dilemma, we are not worried that we are not being true to our self by not being able to choose.
We may be worried that we are not self-actualizing, but we are not worried that we are not staying true to our self.

read full comment
Image of Poly Anna
Poly Anna
on October 27, 2017 at 17:09:45 pm

We do not have an identity crisis merely because our loyalty changes from, say, Britain to the United States--so long as we are living by the principle "be loyal to the country you think is the least evil". A change of loyalty only causes an identity crisis if we are no longer sure if we are living by the principle "be loyal to the country you think is the least evil".

We do not have an identity crisis merely because our loyalty changes from, say, the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church--so long as we are living by the principle "be loyal to the church you think is the closest to scripture". A change of loyalty only causes an identity crisis if we are no longer sure if we are living by the principle "be loyal to the church you think is closest to scripture".

The identity crisis stems from the lack of moral certitude, because our identity is our morality. When the moral certitude returns, the identity crisis disappears.

read full comment
Image of Meseeks Szechuan Sauce
Meseeks Szechuan Sauce
on October 27, 2017 at 17:50:23 pm

Again, there is truth to what you say.

"It is only because people were willing to break from the prevailing orders of their day that we are able to enjoy the prevailing order of OUR day—and lecture people about the need to conform to it.:

Still, it seems to me that their are some limits, some compelling underlying credo / values, etc that a) either pre-destine (not the Calvinist silliness, BTW) one to make such a break - or is it simply a "Rebirth "(of Freedom, as Old Abe supposed), b) defines the new formulation and c) limits the sphere of the new societal intercourse.

It may very well be that "to not break" would be more of a betrayal of the *core* than to break.

As for lecturing, in a sense, is this not how we instill the "core", understanding that there is a time for moderating the lecture or curricula.

seeya, weather is nice and there are trees and shrubs that, perforce, need some heavy lecturing - or is that pruning? Ha!

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on October 29, 2017 at 10:54:56 am

Good comments, all. A genuinely illuminating and stimulating chain of comments. Thanks.

read full comment
Image of Paul Seaton
Paul Seaton
on October 29, 2017 at 17:19:09 pm

I think you can be confident in your values without believing they originate in a transcendent deity or reality (i.e. are objective). But I would agree that it takes a lot more rumination on values if you are trying to determine for yourself which ones should be universalized because they serve liberty rather than the status quo. But I believe coming to your values through philosophizing rather than just adoption (from family, church, government) will lead to greater moral certitude.

And perhaps you will value your values more if you feel you can explain why your transcendent deity would've adopted them to begin with. And perhaps the more you value them, the fewer exceptions you believe should apply to them--i.e., maybe you'll stop wanting to ban hate speech if you actually realize why you value free speech in the first place (rather than just assume its a good-in-itself that is subject to limitless "reasonable" restrictions).

Perhaps it is time for high-school students to read Mill, Nozick and Rawls rather than Dickens, Austin and Fitzgerald, if half of kids don't go to college anyway.

read full comment
Image of Ayn Randy Barnett
Ayn Randy Barnett
on October 29, 2017 at 17:52:10 pm

As General Patton said in a letter to his son on Normandy--"People who are not themselves are nobody."

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/08/21/manvotional-a-letter-from-general-george-s-patton-to-his-son/

Authenticity is the highest value--not solitude or impertinency or greed--rather, deciding for yourself how to live your life in accordance with your highest moral rules. Individualism is not about putting your individual needs above others, its about putting your individual conscience above others' consciences. When we say "don't make sacrifices for others" we mean, don't sacrifice your own moral code to another's moral code, because you will never be able to forgive yourself for doing anything except what you think is right, i.e. morally required.

Or as Ayn Rand said--“Now the essence of individualism is that nobody, neither you nor I nor Marx, can tell a man what he must live for, nor subordinate his rights to a goal set by us.”

read full comment
Image of Hallow's Adam, Hallow's Eve
Hallow's Adam, Hallow's Eve
on October 29, 2017 at 18:39:59 pm

A person who doesn't have a moral code is not being true to themself simply because they are not disobeying their moral code. Being true to yourself is obeying your moral code, not simply not disobeying it. The person may be acting naturally, or instinctually, or reflexively--but they are not consciously affirmatively acting authentically. The authentic self is the self that is affirmatively acting a certain way, not simply not acting a certain way.

There is a difference between the actions of an amoral child and an authentic adult. Though they are both not disobeying morals--there is a clear difference between the child who has no morality to disobey and is acting randomly, and the adult who had a morality and is consciously acting in accordance with it.

read full comment
Image of Full Aris-throttle
Full Aris-throttle
on October 29, 2017 at 19:36:08 pm

Socrates: Ought a man to do what he admits to be right, or ought he to betray the right?
Crito: He ought to do what he thinks right.

"Be true to yourself" is simply a more poetic way of saying "you ought to do what you think is right"

It is not that doing what is right will make you happy, but that you cannot be free from regret and be open to happiness unless you do what you think is right. Just as having a bill of rights does not guarantee happiness, it guarantees the freedom to pursue happiness and enjoy it if one stumbles upon it.

read full comment
Image of Socrate and Barrel
Socrate and Barrel
on October 29, 2017 at 20:55:51 pm

You seem to suggest that self is the same as one's nature or first impulse/instinct in a situation. but this can't be so.

"Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment."

Surely if Shakespeare were merely telling us to follow our first impulse/instinct in a situation, he would tell Hamlet to give every man his voice and return censure for censure--since it is our first impulse to tell people what's on our mind and in particular to censure those who've censured us.

But Shakespeare seems to suggest to be stoic in temperament and speak our mind in moderation, the opposite of what we first feel compelled to do in any situation.

Now I'll admit that he seems to be giving advice or wisdom more than moral code, the only moral rule seems to be the one at the end--be true to yourself (do what you think is right/follow whatever moral rules you think are right).

But whatever Shakespeare is doing, it seems to be more Machiavellian than simply saying "follow your first impulses" (your animal nature).

Mr. Fox is confusing his impulses (stealing) for his "self"--whatever moral principles he genuinely thinks are best if followed universally.

read full comment
Image of Fox McCloudy with Meatballs
Fox McCloudy with Meatballs
on October 30, 2017 at 11:22:25 am

My original comment was not to convince others, but to add a point of view that one would consider and think about deeply. In reading some comments I believe that I should add the below comments that are subjective based on a life lived.

In my original comment is base premise which I believe most adults understand. That “life does live in a vacuum” and that the “life experience continually molds us and guides us that continually forms our lives”. Wither knowledge and understating is acquired by practical or formal education, aquiring life experience in the worlds each live in small or large world that forms and even modifies our cultural principles and values.

I can rightfully say the way I acted and understoo the world at 17, 25, 30, 40 is much different than when I was 50 and 60. The ever expanding work I have lived has challenged strengthened and even changed my values and principles as a maturing process that is just a part of living life. Between the ages 17-60, I have served and lived in over 40 countries. I have experienced the best and worst, seen very terrible things people have done to their own, most places people were intent on killing me. The world I lived in are places that most never heard of nor could find on a map. I believe the quote of Cicero is very true: “Ever moment, every event in a man’s life leave something in the Soul.”

Many can ‘Talk the Walk” few have “Walked the Talk”. I have “Walked the Talk”. My efforts in striving to meet the principles and values. Faith, Honor, Respect, Responsibility, Courage -Strength and Commitment, Love and Loyalty, Wisdom and Never Forget are the reason that I “Believe in and True to Oneself”. These make the difference in the outcomes in Life.

There are some whom live in or relive the past, I believe in reflection on the past to learn to live in the present and a compass to the future..

read full comment
Image of Paul
Paul
on October 30, 2017 at 11:56:36 am

Gabe,

Thank you for understanding the points I attempted to make.

I agree with your observation that ...’ “Faith, Honor, etc...” are precisely the attributes that appear missing from so many of the “True to Yourself” types...’. Some look at this as self centered and I see the term as inwardly reflective.

I believe this starts with upbringing and it does not matter what socio- economic conditions. If this was the Case my mother’s family who are NC farmers as well as my father’s family whom immigranted from Italy would have been an anomaly. Both families raised us children under those core values and principles. Lying and being full of oneself was not tolerated for they always kept us grounded without destroying aspirations.

I guess in current social norms it matters more “the way the world should be” than understanding “the way the world is”. Understanding the difference would be a good start. Oh well as my father instilled in his sons: “I did not make the world as it is. Therefore, it is your mother and my responsibility to teach you the things that will help you leave this a ‘better world’ than you found it”.

Have a great day!

Paul

read full comment
Image of Paul
Paul
on November 03, 2017 at 11:02:14 am

[…] A dedication to egalitarianism can cut both ways: uplifting the lower or bringing down the higher. I… […]

read full comment
Image of Weekend Read: Don’t be true to yourself – rule 11 reader
Weekend Read: Don’t be true to yourself – rule 11 reader

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

Related